In a closely watched case that could impact employees’ use of social media, the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1500 has filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board alleging that the Stop & Shop grocery chain’s social media policy is “impermissibly vague, overbroad and violated Section 7 rights of employees” that protects the right to organize and bargain.
The Union represents 5,500 Stop & Shop employees at 45 stores in and around New York City. The petition alleges that Stop & Shop enacted the social media policy without consulting the union, a violation of collective bargaining rights, while forbidding employees from disclosing confidential information (such as salaries) on sites like Facebook and Twitter.
The policy also prohibits employees from discrediting the store’s practices or products on their personal social media posts. Furthermore, according to legal counsel for the Union, Patricia McConnell of Meyer Suozzi English & Klein, the policy requires employees to report colleagues’ violations whereby workers face disciplinary action — up to and including termination.[more]
“The mere maintenance of the policy violates the law, whether it’s enforced in discipline,” McConnell stated, a policy that has not yet resulted in the actual discipline of an employee, but “the “overbroad” nature of the policy could chill workers’ right to discuss pay or simply to gripe about their employer.”
Stop & Shop spokeswoman Amy Murphy-St. Laurent commented that the policy is a reminder for employees to use “reasonable guidelines” when posting to social media sites. “Stop & Shop does not wish to interfere with the private lives of its associates, even when they are online,” she reportedly wrote in an email.
The NLRB has handled several cases in recent months, and in at least six, determined that social media policies did include “overbroad” or unlawful language that illegally limited employees’ comments.
“Most of the cases where charges have been filed get settled pretty quickly,” said Michael Schmidt, a member of the labor and employment practice at Cozen O’Connor, as quoted by Reuters. “This is a hot issue right now, and many companies don’t want to have their names attached to one of these guinea-pig rulings,” if it moves through the system to the appellate courts.
Separately, Black Box Social Media started an online petition asking Facebook to restore the default landing tabs to its new Facebook Timeline for Brands so admins can still direct ’non-fans’ to a default landing Page.
The new timeline “will have a negative impact on online marketers” says Nick Bridges, Co-Founder of Black Box Social Media. “For many internet marketers and business owners this has been a hugely important component of their marketing efforts on Facebook. Now, new users will be directed to the Facebook wall and marketers will miss out on opportunities to promote unique contests towards new members.”
Facebook’s position is that the default landing tabs are combined with a bundle of applications, and individual brand promotions can use paid advertising to promote tabs.
Bridge’s response: “Over the last year and a half, Facebook has quietly snuffed out the methods of individuals and businesses that had found ways of marketing for free using the social media platform. This is just the next step in monetizing the platform and the timing is just right considering Facebook’s anticipated IPO.”
Black Box Social Media’s goal is to get 100,000 signatures on its petition and send their message to Facebook.